Kremlin officials sought to reassure the world Friday that President Boris Yeltsin was recovering well from another bout of heart disease even as the Russian leader remained isolated from everyone but his bodyguards, doctors and immediate family in a Moscow hospital.
Yeltsin’s press secretary, Sergei Medvedev, said doctors insisted that the president remain under close medical supervision for more than a month - an even longer period of convalescence than he needed the last time he was stricken with heart problems in July.
“The president has not lost consciousness,” Medvedev said. “He is under active but not under intensive therapy.” The spokesman added that Yeltsin “has the nuclear button with him.”
Yeltsin, 64, was rushed to the hospital by helicopter Thursday afternoon suffering acute chest pains from an inadequate supply of blood and oxygen to his heart, a condition known as ischemia. As in the episode in July, Yeltsin’s aides have not used the Russian word infarkt, which means heart attack, to describe the president’s malady.
This week’s incident came two days after Yeltsin returned from a tiring five-day trip to France and the United States, during which he met with President Clinton and appeared in New York City to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.
Much as they did when Yeltsin was hospitalized over the summer, Medvedev and other officials produced soothing words Friday to indicate that the president’s condition is stable and he is not in any immediate danger. They said Yeltsin was reading official documents, reviewing press reports about the world’s reaction to his illness and receiving “all the information he needs.”
Yet if there was a sense of disquiet in Moscow regarding the Russian leader’s prognosis, it was reinforced by the scant supply of hard facts made available about his health. Word about Yeltsin’s condition continued to be screened through Kremlin aides, and the doctors treating the president were not made available to the media.